The UK retail industry suffered from an average of 1,035 reported incidents of shoplifting every dayin 2018, according to the latest analysis of UK police data by leading loss prevention solutions provider Checkpoint Systems.
The latest crime statistics reveal that retailers reported 377,850 incidents in 2018, with no suspect identified in 42% of cases. And at a time when physical stores are experiencing closures as result of poor financial performance, there is a clear requirement to reduce retail crime.
However, in more positive news for retailers, December 2018 marked the lowest ‘Christmas shoplifting’ figures in the last three years, with 897 fewer incidents than the previous year. It demonstrates that stores have become effective at protecting their merchandise during this busy sales period.
A surge of shoplifting in 2018
While the total number of incidents fell compared to the previous year (-2.9%), many regions reported double digit increases to the number of recorded incidents. The City of London police force saw a 20% increase in shoplifting compared to last year, while the north east of England was the worst hit in 2018, with Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary reporting increases of 16% and 14% respectively. The Metropolitan Police continued to handle the largest number of shoplifting reports – 44,090 over the course of 12 months.
Regions that fared better
This year, 26 of 45 forces reported a decrease in shoplifting, with Northamptonshire Police once again seeing one of the largest reductions (-14.3%), while Thames Valley Police saw the most significant drop of -18.2%. South Yorkshire (-12%), Cambridgeshire (-12%) and Gwent (-12%) also reported notable declines.
The tip of the iceberg
However, many retailers suspect that the number of thefts is a gross underestimate and that the real figure may be closer to 950,000, due to under-reporting. This comes as a result of a lack of faith in the justice system’s ability to catch and properly reprimand shoplifters, backed up by the fact that in 10% of cases – where a thief is identified and apprehended – the police were unable to prosecute the suspect.
Mike French, business unit director at Checkpoint Systems UK, said: “A slight decrease in the number of shoplifting attempts is heartening, but it is important to note that this not the picture for all locations who are suffering from increases as high as 20%. With Justice Secretary David Gauke calling for an end to short term prison sentences for shoplifting offenders, there are real concerns that the figure will increase dramatically in 2019.
“Most worryingly for retailers, there is no suspect identified in 42% of reported incidents. This suggests that many have inadequate security processes and theft prevention solutions. Effective security tagging, working antennas and swift staff responses to shoplifting alarms are vital elements of any retailer’s anti-theft strategy.”